Thomas Gifford Trust


Thursday 23rd March, 7.30-9pm, Charlbury Memorial Hall

The Thomas Gifford Trust would like to invite you to a public meeting about the new Charlbury Community Centre. The aim is to update people on the progress of the Community Centre, to answer any questions you may have and to discuss how the centre will best serve the needs of the Community. Please come along to find out more and ask your questions.


The Thomas Gifford Trust is a charity registered with the Charity Commission No. 1155669


The Trustees of the Thomas Gifford Trust, a local charity dedicated to Charlbury Town and the surrounding area, welcome you to our website.

The Trust has existed since 1592 and its charitable purpose is:

  • to maintain the Playing Close for the benefit of the inhabitants of the area;
  • to promote such other charitable purposes for the benefit of the inhabitants as the Trustees shall from time to time think fit.

The Playing Close is a key site in the middle of our town for recreation and events of many kinds. Please visit Playing Close for details.

The Trust also owns the site of the former Spendlove Secondary School, purchased after the sale of the original community building adjacent to the Playing Close. This site will be the location for our new Community Centre - construction scheduled to start Spring 2016. The Centre comprises a range of facilities including a large hall suitable for sports and other events, social areas and a contemporary library.

If you want to make a donation to support the new Community Centre please click on the Make a Donation website here: or email Margie Glasgow [Chair of the Thomas Gifford Trust, address below].

The Trustees are indebted to the Community Centre Appeal Committee and all their supporters for generating much needed funding towards the proposed building. We are also immensely grateful to Charlbury Town Council, West Oxfordshire District Council and Oxfordshire County Council for their support, both practical and financial, to deliver this important community building.

For further information please contact : Marjorie Glasgow,
Chair, Thomas Gifford Trust -


HISTORY: as summarised from the research of Lois Hey
The Thomas Gifford Trust was established in 1592, when Thomas Gifford handed over to 8 local residents of Charlbury, Fawler and Finstock to hold on trust, The Playing Close and other properties in Charlbury. These included the Church House (now Manor House and Sunnyside in Church Street) where the Manorial Courts were held and Church Slade, being a two acre field north of Charlbury.

When Eynsham Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539, all the Abbey's land in Charlbury became Crown property and, in common with monastic property throughout England, was promptly sold. In 1555, when Mary was on the throne, the Manor of Charlbury was sold by Edward North to Sir Thomas White. Sir Thomas White founded St John's College in Oxford, and in 1574 he endowed the College with the Manor of Charlbury. St John's had the foresight to have their ownership endorsed by Elizabeth I. However in January 1590, Elizabeth I gave the Manor of Charlbury to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, as a present.

Essex sold the Manor two months later to Robert Chamberlain and Philip Scudmore, who financed the purchase by borrowing £800 from a moneylender. They then leased the land for 99 years to John Chamberlain (probably Robert's brother), who resided at the old Eynsham Court house (now the Priory). However, in 1590 the President of St John's College, Dr Hutchinson, also happened to be the vicar of Charlbury. He produced the document, endorsed by the Queen, establishing the ownership of St John's. Robert Chamberlain and Philip Scudmore had no alternative but to sign documents recognising the ownership of St John's while they still owed £800.

Mr Thomas Gifford, a gentleman of Middle Claydon, Bucks, now enters the story. He was the son-in-law of John Chamberlain. In 1591 Thomas Gifford signed documents whereby he would discharge the £800 owed by Robert Chamberlain and Philip Scudmore in return for, amongst other things, the Manor and tithes of Charlbury.

John Chamberlain then took a new lease to the Manor of Charlbury from St John's College for three lives, but shortly thereafter sold the lease to Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley. It was then pointed out to Thomas Gifford that property which did not belong to the Lord of the Manor had been included in the supposed sale to him. So it was that in October 1592, he signed a deed handing over The Playing Close and the other lands on a 998 year lease to George Tennant, a dyer, Richard Evans, gentleman, and 6 other local notables to be held for the benefit of the people of the parish of Charlbury - thus The Thomas Gifford Trust was established.



Margie Glasgow - Chair of the Trust
Marjorie Glasgow has worked in business development and management for 34 years. She serves as Chairman of the Thomas Gifford Trust and has been particularly active in the area of fund raising and executing the development plan.

Chris Potts
Chris Potts is a partner in large regional law firm. He is the Vice Chairman of The Thomas Gifford Trust and uses his broad knowledge of commercial and charities law to assist with navigating the multitude of agreements needed to make the new Community Centre a reality. Chris and his family have lived in Charlbury for over 10 years - he has 3 children who are all at Chipping Norton school.

Kate Smith
Kate has been a practising architect for 30 years. She is chair of the building sub-committee of the Thomas Gifford Trust who have been acting for the client body in the design and implementation of the new building. Kate has been a Charlbury resident for the past seventeen years. She and her husband have three children who have all passed through Charlbury Primary School, where Kate was a governor for eight years.

Simon Walker
A mining engineer and geologist by profession, Simon is one of the world's foremost mineral-sector journalists and researchers. Since moving to Charlbury 2007 he and his wife, Rhona, have involved themselves in the town's life. Simon has been Chairman of The Charlbury Society for 5 years and more recently became Honorary Secretary of The Charlbury Motor Fire Brigade Fund, which is strongly supportive of the Community Centre project. He currently fills the positions of Honorary Secretary and Honorary Treasurer for the Thomas Gifford Trust, including responsibility for managing donors' grants.

Paul Jenkins
Paul is a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) with over 25 years real estate industry experience. He ran his own company for 15 years (based in 5 countries) and more recently managed the asset and property management teams at Deloitte LLP. He currently has a variety of roles that include consulting, lecturing on the Real estate program at Oxford Brookes and acting as a lead advisor to the Institute of Residential Property Managers. Paul is actively involved in the town with significant involvement in the local football and cricket youth clubs. He currently acts as the Trust's key representative in managing the construction contract with Beard and chairs the Sports Sub Committee.

Tanya Stevenson
Tanya is Chair of the Charlbury Community Centre Appeal Committee which raises money for the new Community Centre. She's an active volunteer at several of the town's organisations - the Day Centre, the Library and 'Books on Wheels', and has set up a new reading group. Tanya also sings in our local community choir. A graduate of Sheffield University in French and Russian, her career experience is in Library and Information Services, and more recently as a pre-school leader in South Oxfordshire.

Eileen Kenrick
Eileen has worked in IT and financial and retail administration for more than 30 years. Having lived in Charlbury since 1982 she has been treasurer of the PTA, scouts and guides and the Corner House; and for the last 15 years treasurer for Nine Acres. She is looking to seamlessly integrate the facilities of Nine Acres with the new building to the advantage of all.

Richard Neville
Richard took up residence in Charlbury 35 years ago after a career as a Group Captain in the RAF serving in the UK, Germany and the Middle East. He subsequently became a director of a UK civil engineering company specialising in airfield and motorway construction before retiring to do community related activities in the Charlbury area. He is a founder member of the Community Centre Appeal formed in 2003/4 and has been its Treasurer ever since. He is also a TVP police volunteer and helped to run the Charlbury Police Office for 5 years before its closure a couple of years ago and is still called upon occasionally to act as an escort and for invigilating duties.

Susan Terry
Sue and her husband Graham moved to Charlbury in 2012. Sue was a secondary school English teacher for over 20 years, latterly also setting up and running a Behaviour Support Unit. In 2006 Sue left the classroom to support the education of children in care in West Berkshire.
Sue retired in 2014 and is now very active in Charlbury, singing with Voices Unlimited, working as a volunteer with Books on Wheels and as a member of The Library Design group. She also continues to sing with a chamber choir in West Berkshire and works as a volunteer for the Oxford Support Group of Hope and Homes for Children and at Helen and Douglas House in Oxford.
She has a very strong commitment to reading and to the wide use of libraries for all. Sue is the trust's link to Oxfordshire Library Service and to The Friends of Charlbury Library.

Tony Morgan
Tony is an experienced hands-on Financial Director with 15 years interim experience, following a successful full time career. He is experienced in all aspects of financial control and corporate finance, with particular expertise in business planning, forecasting, cash management, & capital raising. He is treasurer of the Charlbury Beer Festival, and established the charitable structure for the operation.

Roger Venthen
Roger, a qualified mechanical engineer with over 50 years' experience in the construction industry both in the UK and overseas, is part of the team of trustees who are overseeing the construction of the new community centre and has special responsibility for the building's energy efficiency and mechanical systems.
Passionate about sports, Roger has played most team sports in his youth - of particular note: playing rugby for London Wasps and ice hockey for Wembley Lions. A Charlbury resident since 2011, Roger is keen to help develop sports facilities in the town.

Robin Puttick
Robin has worked in IT-related jobs in industry, local government and business. He began his career in the oil exploration industry as a seismologist, then went on to become a principal officer in the London Borough of Brent, where he worked on developing databases, as well as managing a range of projects. He then set up a business securing EU funding for many large-scale medical and industrial IT projects across Europe.
Robin has lived in Charlbury for three years, and serves as a Town Councillor. He recently became a Trustee of the Thomas Gifford Trust as the Council's nominated representative, and has taken on the task of managing the IT systems at the new community centre.

Community Centre


Charlbury Community Centre Progress
Thomas Gifford Trust, March 2017

Since the foundations for the new community centre were laid last September, as you will see, the building is now progressing rapidly. Recently, the roof, solar panels and inner lining panels have been fitted followed by a number of stone walls and insulation, in preparation for the outer cladding that will follow imminently. The next month will also see full connection to the existing sports pavilion; the building becoming fully enclosed and then a lot of interior work will commence to the library, café, studio and sports hall areas.

It is a large centre because it includes a sports hall that is the size of four badminton courts, big enough to hold indoor football matches and cricket nets. To play these sports and attract Sport England funding the hall had to conform to a given size. The current playing area is designed to offer an area of 612 sq m with a clear height of 7.5m, which also offers the opportunity for the hall to be used for a variety of other sports.

The trust is working closely with the town council to secure and finalise the funding for the external works that will see the creation of an additional 19 new car parking spaces, bike racks, buggy area, external signage, pergola, canopy and external soft landscaping including trees and benches and an outdoor court yard. There will also be a lit paved area in front of the centre allowing access to and from Nine Acres path, field and beyond.

Charlbury Community Centre is a major community asset, with a strong physical presence in the heart of town, so it is quite natural that people might have questions and concerns:

The building has been designed to cater for a variety of interests. While the hall takes up the largest area to suit a wide range of different sports, the remainder of the space is flexible. Outside library hours, possible uses include after-school clubs, reading groups, classes that are not already catered for, meetings and social gatherings. With no steps to navigate, the Centre is totally accessible for people with mobility problems, and there will be disabled-access WCs, baby changing facilities, a buggy park and bike store. Open during the day and in the evening, it can be used as a centre of learning, recreation and wellbeing. Suggestions are welcome (as long as they're legal!).

Many Charlbury residents worked hard to keep a library in our community, and major funding from Oxfordshire County Council was available to Charlbury for a new library within the Charlbury Community Centre. The Trustees developed the new library to include provision for people with disabilities, wireless internet, computers, a children's area, and new furnishings for which fund-raising is still on-going. The library will more than double in size (with even more space in a separate breakout area), and have capacity for 5,000 books, a third more than currently available. The library will continue to be staffed and managed as at present by the Library Service with the support of volunteers. As part of the vision of Thomas Gifford Trustees, the sports hall will bring in revenue to pay the entire Centre's overheads which will help the library have a sustainable future.

Professional staff will take charge of the day to day running of the Centre, paid for from income from the sports hall. A volunteer committee will have overall responsibility and oversee the management of the operation, which will be run on a not-for-profit basis. It will also provide an exciting opportunity for local people to be involved on a voluntary basis by supporting the professional staff in a number of different roles. This will be a great way of developing new skills and meeting people in a dynamic and lively environment. Anyone interested should contact Daniela Jenkins at

The building is being constructed to the best possible level of energy performance within the budget, which includes triple glazed windows, solar panels, maximum insulation, efficient underfloor heating and mechanical ventilation and heat recovery systems for the sports hall. Southill Community Energy has agreed to provide the solar panels and funding for items to enhance the energy efficiency.

The land is owned by Charlbury charity, The Thomas Gifford Trust, so no purchase was required. The charity's trustees (all local volunteers) along with the fantastic team behind the Charlbury Community Centre Appeal, have been fundraising for many years and have raised around £1.8million - enough for the main construction of the building.
Many grant applications have been submitted and because there are thousands of charities applying for limited pots of money, there have been many rejections and disappointments along the way. Perseverance has paid off, however, and a major grant (£500,000) was awarded by Sport England, along with funding from Oxfordshire County Council (£350,000) on condition that it accommodates the new library and WODC Communities Facilities Funds (£47,500). Grants were also given by other national and local government departments and charitable trusts such as the Garfield Weston Foundation. Recently the English Cricket Board has approved a grant of £30,000 for sports equipment and fixtures.
The most inspiration and encouragement, however, has come from the generosity within the town - from the Town Council, groups such as the Charlbury Motor Fire Brigade Fund, the Beer Festival, and the private donations of residents which we continue to receive and for which we are very grateful. Above all, the hard work of the team behind the Charlbury Community Centre Appeal with fundraising events supported by local people has raised a staggering £231,000 and counting.
There is still work to be done. The funding for the building is secure, so the contract currently underway will result in a fully functioning building as described. More money is needed for things like furniture, computer equipment, cafe facilities, signage and even a back porch and our fundraising for this continues alongside the building work.
We are extremely grateful for the support of the Town Council and the people of Charlbury for agreeing to take out a loan of £130,000 in order to fund the external works at the Community Centre. This will allow us to ensure that the exterior areas link well with the surrounding buildings and Nine Acres and that the site looks great with trees and other planting, well paved footpaths and good finishes to roadways, parking and fencing.

Already, provisional bookings are coming in, not just from within Charlbury but from organisations further afield enquiring about availability for regular hires. The level of interest has been outstanding.
The Centre will be open for business in autumn 2017. The trustees of the Thomas Gifford Trust appreciate your patience during the construction phase and for your continued generosity in making the project a reality.

Marjorie Glasgow
Chair of Trustees
Noah's Ark, Market Street, Charlbury, Oxfordshire OX7 3PL

Playing Close

According to a talk given by Lois Hey to the Charlbury Society in 1987, it is around 400 years since the land now known as the Playing Close was confirmed as belonging "to the only use, profit and commodity of the tenants and inhabitants of Charlbury, and to no other use".

It was where all the able bodied men of Charlbury had to practise archery in the days of the longbow, to be ready for military service. In 1813, the Trustees had to order that "all timbers and dunghills be removed before the ensuing fair", although thankfully the atmosphere is now a lot fresher than it would have been then.
The Playing Close is now well known for the magnificent trees, planted in 1890 at a cost of 7 shillings 10d, the Water Fountain erected to commemorate the visit of Queen Victoria to the Town and the green oasis it forms in the middle of Charlbury.

Today we enjoy the Playing Close as a pleasant place to walk and sit, to visit the quarterly Farmers Market, as a venue for School Fairs, the local Scouts & Guides Fair, along with various other events such as the Annual Fun Fair and Street Fair.

If you want to use the Playing Close for your event or other community activity, please contact the Trustees.

The Trustees gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Town Council to assist in the maintenance of the Playing Close.


If you have any constructive comments and suggestions, inspiring ideas for fundraising activities or just a general question about the Thomas Gifford Trust and the proposed Charlbury Community Centre development, please email us and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.

If you want to make a donation to support the new Charlbury Community Centre please visit the Charlbury Community Centre Appeal website:

Last updated: Mon 20 Mar

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